Posts Tagged DIY

Guide To Building A Gooseneck Tiny House And Fifth Wheel Tiny Homes

Guide To Building A Gooseneck Tiny House And Fifth Wheel Tiny Homes

Guide To Building A Gooseneck Tiny House
Many people are interested in building a gooseneck tiny house, also known as a fifth wheel tiny house. These houses are built on a special style of trailer, often referred to as a gooseneck, that attaches to your tow vehicle with a fifth wheel towing connector.

While I built my tiny house on a normal trailer, I’ve had the chance to step foot in quite a few gooseneck tiny houses. It’s easy to see the appeal because there is a lot going for this approach.

What Is A Gooseneck Tiny House?

What Is A Gooseneck Tiny House

At its core, a gooseneck tiny house is simply a tiny house built on a gooseneck trailer, which has major benefits of having a more room inside and being easier to tow. The other aspect which draws people to this style of tiny house is that you can have a full height bedroom without needing a ladder.

Gooseneck Tiny House Floorplans

Gooseneck Tiny House Floorplans

One of the key features of a gooseneck tiny home is that you can build over the neck of the trailer. Since you can build over the hitch, you can have a larger living space as compared to a normal bumper bulled trailer. Most people opt to put their bedroom over the hitch with a few steps leading up to it.

To get an idea of gooseneck tiny house designs, here are some different floorplans for a gooseneck tiny house.

32-Foot Gooseneck Tiny House Floorplans

32-Foot Gooseneck Tiny House Floorplans

A tiny house built on a 32-foot gooseneck trailer will give you about 331 square feet of living space in your tiny house. Here are some tiny house floorplans that are built on a 32-foot gooseneck trailer.

Gooseneck Tiny House Floorplans for 32-Foot trailer
 Floorplans for 32-Foot Gooseneck trailer
Floorplans for 32-Foot trailer
Tiny House Floorplans for 32-Foot trailer

34-Foot Gooseneck Tiny House Floorplans

34-Foot Gooseneck Tiny House Floorplans

A tiny house built on a 34-foot trailer will give you approximately 350 square feet of living space. Here are a few floorplans for a 34-foot fifth wheel tiny house.

Gooseneck Tiny House Floorplans for 34-Foot trailer
Floorplans for 34-Foot tiny house
Tiny House Floorplans for 34-Foot gooseneck trailer
Gooseneck Floorplans for 34-Foot trailer

38 Foot-Gooseneck Tiny House Floorplan

38 Foot-Gooseneck Tiny House Floorplan

A tiny house built on a 38-foot gooseneck trailer will have about 380 square feet of living space. At this size, you’re going to have to consider what type of tow vehicle you’re going to need, because these can be very heavy. Here are a few floorplans for a tiny house built on a 38-foot gooseneck trailer.

38 Foot Gooseneck Tiny House
38 Foot Floorplan for a Gooseneck Tiny House
38 Foot Tiny House Gooseneck Trailer
38 Foot Tiny House

40 Foot Gooseneck Tiny House Floorplan

40 Foot Gooseneck Tiny House Floorplan

A tiny house built on a 40-foot gooseneck trailer will have about 400 square feet of living space, which is a decent sized tiny house. [Link to tiny house dimensions post] It’s at this point that you’ll have to start watching out for weight ratings and axle limits for a CDL license when you tow your tiny house.

Floorplan for a 40 Foot Gooseneck Tiny House
40 Foot Tiny House Floorplan
40 Foot Tiny House Floorplan For a Gooseneck trailer
40 Foot Floorplan for Tiny House gooseneck

tiny house resources

tiny house dimensions

Tiny House Dimensions


Gooseneck Tiny House Plans

Gooseneck Tiny House Plans

Right now, there is only one set of plans for sale that I know of for a gooseneck trailer tiny home. These are designed by my friend Macy Miller, who built this house herself. I’ve spent time reviewing a lot of tiny house plans and these in particular are one of the best out there.

minimotives house
minimotives floorplan
minimotives tiny house
minimoties tiny house layout plans
minimotives tiny house interior
minimotives floorplan layout

The first thing you notice about the plans are the gorgeous 3D graphics! They help make the building plans easier to read and are visually appealing. There are so many zoomed-in details, cutaways, and isometrics, and they’re all beautiful. The 3D diagrams are rendered in color and labeled clearly so a builder can easily discern all the details. The plans are also very thorough at 32 pages. Pages measure 17”x11”. They could be printed or viewed digitally. There’s no tool list, but the materials list is very detailed.

The plumbing illustrations are rendered in 3D from different angles and very clearly labeled. There’s also a page dedicated just to the electrical diagrams separate from other floor plans and layouts for easy reading. Color coding helps the builder see the circuits more clearly. For the beginner, there are some great side diagrams explaining basic wiring.

How To Build A Gooseneck Tiny House

How To Build A Gooseneck Tiny House

If you want to build a tiny house on a gooseneck or fifth wheel trailer, the process is pretty similar to that of a standard tiny house, with the exception of building over the fifth wheel neck. The best way to think about this is just building two sections of house, one mounted on the main trailer and the other mounted on the neck.

A Gooseneck Tiny House

As you can see, there are two section of this tiny house. The main body and the upper loft of the gooseneck. You’re going to want to make sure that your roof height doesn’t exceed the maximum height allowed by law. [LINK to tiny house dimensions post]

Step 1: Design Your Tiny House

Step 1: Design Your Tiny House

Start by having a rough idea of your layout to make sure the square footage will work for you, then get your trailer. I’d suggest getting your trailer before you commit to a final design. This will help you when it comes to actual dimensions and visualizing what it really will be like.

tiny house resources

planning your tiny house

Planning Your Tiny House


Step 2: Anchor Your Tiny House To Your Gooseneck Trailer

Anchor Your Tiny House To Your Gooseneck Trailer

Anchoring your tiny house is a very important step, especially with a gooseneck tiny home. A gooseneck trailer is much heavier than a regular trailer, but that also allows you to put more weight on it. The result is that your tiny home will be a load that, if not anchored properly, can be disastrous or even deadly.

tiny house resources

Anchor A Tiny House To A Gooseneck Trailer

Anchoring Your Tiny House


Step 3: Build The Subfloor

Build The Subfloor for a tiny house

The first system you’re going to build is your subflooring. This is the base that will sit on top of your trailer deck and later is what you’ll add your finish flooring on. A very important point here is to make sure the anchoring extends from the trailer through your subflooring and up into the wall studs to secure all three together.

tiny house resources

tiny house subfloor

Framing The Floor


Step 4: Framing The Walls Of Your Gooseneck Tiny Home

Framing The Walls Of Your Gooseneck Tiny Home

On top of your subflooring, you’re going to build your wall framing system. You want to make sure that your anchoring comes through your bottom plate and ties into your vertical studs with the proper metal brackets. I’d suggest 16 inch on center framing, but you might consider 24 inch framing if you need to lighten up on weight.

tiny house resources

framing a tiny house

Framing My Tiny House


Step 5: Framing Your Roof

Framing Your Tiny House Roof

Your roof tops off your walls and should be covered in roof decking and tied in with hurricane brackets at each stud. Your roof trusses should land exactly on top of your wall studs, which will allow the weight of the roof to be carried down from the rafters, through the studs and onto your trailer.

how to build a tiny house book

Step 6: Add Sheathing

Add Sheathing to a tiny house

On the outside of your tiny house, you’re going want to use sheathing to tie it all together. I suggest using a glue and screw approach for extra strength.

tiny house resources

Tiny House Sheathing


Step 7: Add Doors And Windows To Your Tiny House

Add Doors And Windows To Your Tiny House

Dropping in your windows and doors won’t take long, but you want to make sure you get your flashing details right.

Step 8: Adding Siding And Trim To Your Tiny House

Adding Siding And Trim To Your Tiny House

Adding siding to your tiny house is a pretty straight forward process once you get the trim done around your windows and doors. You have a few options for siding: board & batten, fiber cement, and wood siding. I wouldn’t suggest going with vinyl siding as it’s very easily blown off while driving down the road.

tiny house resources

tiny house building checklist

Tiny House Building Checklist


Step 9: Installing Utilities: Electrical And Plumbing

Installing Utilities Electrical And Plumbing

For this step, you might want to consider looping in an electrician and a plumber. But for those of you who want to do it on your own, it can be done. I’d suggest using PEX in your tiny house to plumb it and keeping your electrical system pretty simple.

tiny house resources

simple electric for tiny houses

Simple Electrical For Tiny Houses


tiny house plumbing

Tiny House Plumbing


Step 10: Finish Your Gooseneck Tiny House Interior

Finish Your Gooseneck Tiny House Interio

Obviously this is a pretty involved step, but the final process of building your gooseneck tiny house is to finish the inside. You’re going to want to apply your interior wall finishes, build out your kitchen and bathroom, add your built ins, and lay down your flooring.

Here are some posts that can help you with all this:

tiny house resources

designing your tiny house bathroom

Designing Your Dream Bathroom


tiny house kitchen ideas

Tiny House Kitchen Ideas


how to set up a tiny house loft

Tiny House Loft Solutions


tiny house closet

Building My Closet


Gooseneck Tiny House Video Tours

Gooseneck Tiny House Video Tours

Here are some video tours of gooseneck tiny house interiors to get some design inspiration for building your own tiny house on a fifth wheel trailer.


how to build a tiny house

Your Turn!

  • Why do you want to build your tiny house on a gooseneck trailer?

Contracts Are Your Friend When Having A Tiny House Built

Contracts Are Your Friend When Having A Tiny House Built

More and more people are turning to builders of tiny homes to build their house.  When I first started the tiny house movement everyone was building their own tiny house, but that isn’t the case today.  Over the years I’ve found several really great builders, but I’ve also found a lot of really terrible builders.  My only advice is that buyer beware is the best advice I can give.

I felt the need to write this post today because there is clearly a need for people to understand how to protect yourself during this process.  I’ve seen countless examples of people not using common sense when it comes to hiring a builder and so here I am making this P.S.A.

When You Hire A Builder, Have This:

  1. Signed contract
  2. Build and payment timeline
  3. Detailed set of plans
  4. Process for changes
  5. Plan for when things go wrong
  6. Vetted references

 

Before I get into what each of these things are, I feel the need to justify the need for these things, not because they require justification, but because people seem to think they’re not needed.  It honestly blows my mind when I hear a horror story of a builder and I always ask, “do you have a contract?” 95% of the time the answer is “no”.

A Tiny House Contract With A Builder Does The Following:

  • Gets people on the same page
  • Reduces disagreements
  • Highlights future problems before they happen
  • Can help ward off bad builders
  • Gives you a leg to stand on in court if need be

If you’re entering into any agreement in life that’s more than $1,000 you should have something signed. The bigger the price tag, the more time you need to spend on the contract.  When I am considering whether to put together a document, I ask myself this: “Am I willing to lose or walk away from this money?”  If the answer is no, I draw up a contract.

I need to put a bit of tough love on all of you here, because most people I’ve run into think contracts aren’t necessary.  You need a contract and several other documents when hiring a professional to build your house.  If you don’t, I have a really hard time feeling sorry for you when it all goes bad.  Being a responsible adult means taking common sense steps like drawing up a contract on things like this.

So let’s get into what is involved with each of these things.

how much does a tiny house cost

You Need A Contract When You Hire A Builder Or Contractor:

Before you give over one dollar, you need to have a contract signed.  Why?  Because a contract is simply a tool to make sure everyone is on the same page.  People shy away from contracts because they sound complicated, they could be expensive, they are so formal or too “corporate.”

This is the exact opposite of how you should feel.  I love contracts, seriously!  I know it’s a little weird, but I really do.

The way I like to think about contracts is, they’re a tool that lets me understand the other person.  That’s it!  In life I’ve found that most disagreements happen when I do something when the other person expected something else.  If we can both agree on what we expect, most disagreements won’t happen.

So we use a contract to carefully outline what we want, what we expect, how we are going to go about it, and what the plan is. What I’ve found is we outline these things, sit down with the person and we suddenly find out we were thinking different things.  That’s great because we can align our thinking and fix it now.

A contract is best to be drawn up by a lawyer, but really any good builder should have a template handy.  You can get free templates online and customize to your needs.  Be wary of anyone who seems hesitant to work with you on a contract.  Bad and dishonest builders shy away from contracts. Quality builders love contracts because a contract lets them understand their customer and prevent disagreements.

You Should Have A Detailed Building Timeline:

contract timelines

In addition to the contract, you need a timeline.  A timeline outlines who does what and when.  You should outline when each phase of the build is to be completed.  Break down the build into milestones: Design finalized, construction starts, walls erected, roof completed, siding/windows/doors, interior finishes, etc.  For each of these things have a due date and tie those due dates to payments.

Along with a build schedule I would recommend insisting on a formal update every 2 weeks. Write this into the contract, along with what defines an “update”.  It can be a simple email with photos, but honestly I’d do it in person or do a virtual check in where they Skype or Face Time you and walk around the in progress house.  You want to see your house – actually lay eyes on it, don’t take their word for it!

For updates I’d stipulate in the contract:

  • Summary of work completed since last update (100 words or so)
  • 5 photos included with each updated, showing work that was completed
  • Summary of any delays and actions to fix it
  • Summary of work to be done by next update
  • Any items that need to be discussed or addressed

An important note here is you need to compare the work done to the timeline you’ve setup. Compare the last set of updates “work to be done” with the subsequent updates list of “work completed.” The update list should match. If it doesn’t, the builder should have a plan to catch up and explanation.  You should build in some time for setbacks. Be reasonable because delays happen, but set expectations for how much of a delay is too much.

Have A Detailed Set Of Plans As Part Of The Contract:

house plansA set of professionally generated plans are an investment to achieve a successful build.  Plans are an effective way to communicate exactly what you want.

Plans will typically cost $1,000 or more, but it’s something that you shouldn’t skimp on.  You want the plans to include specific dimensions, electrical, plumbing, and other utilities.  The other very important aspect to plans is the materials list.  You literally need to spec out every material in the house along with any mechanical or appliances.

Why so much detail in the material list?  Because it will help the builder price correctly and remove any questions when it comes to what needs to go into the house.   Really shady builders will often swap materials for cheaper versions and pocket the difference.

Have A Process For Changes:

changes will happen in buildingThis is typically a good signal of a quality builder, they rely heavily on rigid processes and insist on “change orders”.  In your contract you need to specifically state that any changes not signed off BEFOREHAND are not allowed and you aren’t responsible for paying for them.

A change order is simple document that states that you were planing on doing one thing, but for whatever reason something needs to be changed.  It should outline what the change is very specifically and needs to include the change of charges.  Even if there are no additional charges, it needs to specifically state that the cost is $0.00 in the document.

 

Things to require change orders are:

  • Changes to materials, parts or appliances
  • Agreements on delays
  • Changes in build, layout, design, colors or other elements
  • Any additions
  • Any changes to final billable costs or credits
  • Anything that wasn’t planned for

Plan For When Things Go Wrong:

Building a tiny house is a complex and things will go wrong.  It most likely won’t be a big deal, but it will happen.  Both sides need to be reasonable and considerate, but you also need to know when to draw the line.  The best piece of advice I can give here is that things are best resolved through productive conversations and understanding.

Be clear about what is bothering you, calmly state what you thought was going to happen, what did happen and propose possible solutions.  When you talk about issues, make sure you stop talking and listen when they’re speaking and ask for the same respect.  Do your best to keep your emotions in check.

Before you even start building, while you’re putting together your contract, sit down with the builder and say “I want to figure out a good way for us to resolve issues if they ever come up and want to work together on solutions together.”  If you have a specific conversation about this it can prevent a lot of heartache later on.

Often contracts will have a mediation process, where a third party hears both sides and determines what the fair thing to do is.  I’d suggest having the following:

  • Define a process that can help the situation early on
  • Define a mediation process
  • Define the location or jurisdiction for any legal proceedings if it needs to go to court
  • Define who pays for what in mediation and legal fees

Vet every builder with multiple references

First off, if a builder has never built a tiny house, run away as fast as you can.  Even if they were a builder of normal homes, that’s not good enough.  Why would you take the chance?

Any builder you engage you need to talk to multiple references.  In those interviews I’d strongly suggest you going to meet them in person and ask ahead of time to see the house they had built.  Most homeowners are proud of their house and love to show it off.  It will give you a chance to see the quality of the builder’s work and give you a chance to see real world examples which can be useful in your own build.

If a builder even blinks when you ask for references you should walk away.  If they aren’t quick to provide several references, you need to run away.  Seriously.  Why would any good builder not be willing to have you talk to previous customers?  Quality builders love references because their work will shine through.

A really important note: if there is anything at all, that seems not right about any of the references choose another builder. If your gut says something is off, don’t use that builder.  I’d rather be wrong than sorry.

Good builders love contracts, timelines, and references because it improves the outcome and shows their quality work.  Bad or sketchy builders will shy away from these types of things.

Your Turn!

  • What tips do you have?
  • What lessons have you learned from working with builders?

Framing The Floor Of My Tiny House

Today I wanted to share with you all on how I framed the floor of my house. The floors of your house in the floor is made up of a few sections:

  • Trailer decking
  • Sub floor framing
  • Sub-flooring
  • Finished flooring

Trailer Decking:

The trailer decking is the base that you’re resting your sub-floor framing on, which makes up the bottom portion of your flooring system.  Between the decking and the actual framing you want to have two control layers: a vapor barrier and a animal/bug barrier.  For this I used galvanized flashing sealed with a flashing caulking an stapled down.

This helped to block moisture from engineering in, but also kept road debris out.  Additionally this prevents pests and rodents from coming into too, but having a contiguous layer of metal to block them.

tiny house deck flashing

After that I added a single layer of 10 mil poly plastic sheeting as an extra control layer for vapor and air on top of my flashing.

tiny house floor vapor barrier

Tiny House Sub Floor Framing

My tiny house sub floor framing was done with treated 2×4’s placed on 2 foot centers.  The trick to framing is to have all your joists designed to be on 24″ centers, so when you place sub flooring – which is 4 feet wide – you know exactly where to screw into the floor joists.  The other thing you need to consider is the forces that the floor is going to be encountering, this effectively is your foundation, so it’s important for this to be really strong.

tiny house sub floor framing

To add more strength I used corner braces that are used in hurricane prone area building, I also tied the floor joists to the deck of the trailer using high sheer strength screws.  I screwed from below the trailer, through the trailer decking, into the joists.  In certain key joints  I chiseled out notches for the cross members to sit into, this wasn’t in the plans, but I thought the potential forces seemed to call for it.  Here is a video and then a bunch of photos after that.

My Tiny House Floor Framing:

Framing the Floor

 

Framing the Floor

 

Framing the Floor

 

Framing the Floor

 

Framing the Floor

 

Framing the Floor

 

Related Posts:

how much does a tiny house cost

 

Living in a Shed? An In Depth Guide To Turning A Shed Into A Tiny Home

Living in a Shed? An In Depth Guide To Turning A Shed Into A Tiny Home

how to live in a shed

When it comes to Tiny Houses, they come in all shapes and sizes. Many people have asked me about building a tiny house shed as an affordable option to having your own tiny house.

A tiny house

I think what’s important to keep in mind is that tiny houses have made a name for themselves because they’re willing to break the mold. Diversity of what Tiny is, is in itself, part of what makes it so fascinating to me. As people take these ideals, we share in the Tiny House Movement and manifest itself in so many forms, we find creative ways to live in small homes.

With that said, using a shed as the shell for your tiny house is a great way to get things started. I myself have considered is a prefab shed and today I was able to go see a model that I have been toying with the idea of purchasing and putting in the middle of a plot of land.

Can You Legally Live In A Shed?

get your permits

Like Tiny Homes, making this legal and meeting building codes is rather difficult when you say you want to live or dwell in it. One big advantage of the prefab shed option is that these structures are so prevalent that in many places you can just drop one off and you’re good. Some places require a permit, but it’s a formality more than anything, city hall needs to get it’s slice anyway they can.

These sheds will almost always pass code if you’re using it for storage. That means the shed would officially would have to be just a shed. It can a bit more complicated when you are not placing the shed behind a primary dwelling. This is where I find myself.

The real lynch pin when it comes to living in a shed legally if you want to connect sewer, water and power.

Connecting Water To Your Shed

water connection for a shed

Fortunately, you can get water to most properties without much hassle. Of the three main utilities, water is the simplest because it’s not terribly complicated or pose much risks. I did this on my current property in the mountains where I got a well and where my tiny house is in the city, I was able to connect to the city water for “landscaping” with zero issue.

You just pony up the cash for the permits and the install, run it to a frost proof hydrant (again saying it’s for landscaping) and get your inspections if needed. Once the inspectors are done with their checks and you have all your documents in hand, drop your shed, and connect it off the books.

NOTE: Because water is so easy to get, you can get it and the bill will provide “proof of residence” for other things like the DMV, getting a post office box etc.

Connecting Power To Your Shed

electrical hook up to shed

Getting electricity in your shed is slightly trickier because this is the part where code officials start to get warry you’re planning on living in the shed. That said, it’s not uncommon to want to have power in a shed for tools etc. What I suggest you do is get your water installed on the land so it’s about 20 feet into the property, wait a few weeks while you get your shed pad graded and shed dropped off.

Now next is what I’d do, but realize I’m not responsible for any consequence if you do this. Once the shed is dropped off, stage the inside with a few shed-like items: A lawn mower, a table top on some saw horses, a few tools scatted on top. Make it look like this is a real shed used for actual storage. That way when the electrician comes to install and the inspector does their inspection, it looks like your using it as a storage shed.

You’re most likely only going to get approved for a 50 or 100 amp service compared to a normal home is usually 200-amp service. That should be totally fine for your needs in such a small space.

Connecting Sewer To Your Shed

sewer connection

Here is the biggest hurtle and frankly I’ll be honest and say you’re not going to get any code official to let you install a flush toilet in a shed unless it’s totally above board and designated as a dwelling. I don’t mind using a composting toilet, but having water and power is a must.

For toilet you could use a composting toilet, you could use a porta potty service, or you could consider getting a septic system installed (if it’s possible). Septic systems will start to get people asking questions if they see a septic installed, a water line run to the property and power run to a “shed”. It won’t take much for anyone looking at your property or reviewing parcel tax and permit records to put two and two together.

Can You Live In A Shed?

can you live in a shed

When I was talking with the sales person at the shed store, she told me that they have had several customers live in these sheds. They call these buildings “sheds” loosely, with models up to 1000+ square feet. He had an entire wall of photos where people had converted a shed into a house, upfitting the outside with porches, accents, etc.

Why Should You Live In A Shed?

why you should live in a shed

Living in a shed comes with a lot of advantages, between their wide spread availability, cost and ease to obtain.

Easily Permittable

The ease of getting them legitimized is the biggest appeal to me. There aren’t many things these days that are easier to do, in many cases you can just drop them on your property and be done. Often municipalities have rules like “if the structure is not a dwelling and no dimension is greater than 12 feet, no permit is required”.

Very Affordable

The model I show here is 192 Square Feet. Included are the windows, doors, installations, taxes, anchoring, site leveling and delivery all for the price of $4,200! Figure adding in permits, running power, insulation and drywall (doing the work myself of course) I am looking at a sweet house for around $6,000. You could then deck it out with Ikea swag for another $500 and have a really nice place! The only drawback is there is no loft for a bed, so you have to deal with that. Possibly you could use a murphy bed.

Another angle to this is they offer payment plans of $70 a month, makes it pretty affordable, considering I have friends that pay over $1500 a month in rent.

Easily Transportable

The other advantage to these houses is that you can move them! Not as easily as a house on a trailer, but it’s possible. This is because they deliver these sheds on flat beds or even tow trucks sometimes. They even have these little crawler machines to maneuver the shed into place where a truck might not be able to get into tight back yards.

Widely Available

Unlike tiny houses where the closest builder might several states away, there is probably several shed sellers in your city. These sheds are everywhere it seems, so getting a shed is pretty simple and you can even price shop between them.

How To Convert A Shed Into A Tiny House

how to convert shed into living space

Once you buy a shed, you’re first going to want to get all your utilities to the site and setup before you do anything. Get your water, power and sewer squared away, get your copies of all the approvals, then wait a few weeks. I’ve found that sometimes there are a few little loose ends that need to happen and you don’t want an inspector around while you convert your house.

1
Set A Level Pad And Grade For Drainage
Before the shed even gets delivered, I’d suggest at the very least scraping the grass away and putting down 4-6 inches of ¾” gravel. Consider burying your water and sewer connections at this point and hide the ends so the inspector doesn’t ask questions. Have the gravel base extend in all directions about 1-2 feet beyond the footprint of the shed. Make sure the space is totally level and compact the base with a plate compactor.While you’re at it, consider how the water will flow around the shed, put in French drains if any slopes will push water towards it. Also consider where the water will flow off the roof if you have gutters, consider trenching a drain pipe to flush water away from the shed.
2
Make Utility Connections To Your Shed
Once the shed is delivered on the pad you created, the inspector has come and gone, then bring your connections from wherever they are to the shed and inside. If you pre-buried your connections, uncover the connection points, and connect them. Test everything before you close up the walls.
3
Deal With Moisture On The Bottom Of The Shed
If there is one thing I don’t like about these sheds is they use OSB or similar products, which just don’t stand up well to moisture. If you have the option, I’d pay extra for plywood and make sure it is treated. The underside of the floor where it faces the ground is a place that moisture can build up and bugs can eat into.I suggest that you have you shed on blocks just high enough for you to crawl under so you can access things easier. This is even the case if you don’t need to use blocks for leveling. Having access and air flow is really great and super important to keep your floor dry and rot free. I’d also apply a thick coat of exterior deck oil based paint to the underside of the shed to seal the wood from moisture.
4
Adjust Your Shed Framing
In many cases shed builders use a smaller dimension framing than traditional 2×4’s. If you can, request your shed to be done with 2×4’s so all your building materials will work (insulation, electrical boxes, etc which are all sized for 2×4 cavities).If your walls aren’t framed with 2×4’s then you might have to figure out alternatives to every other step coming up because all building materials are sized to accommodate a 2×4 wall. You also are going to want a deeper cavity to insulate, a 1×3 wall like some sheds are will end up being a very cold home.If you can’t order the shed to have 2×4’s then you’ll need to build the wall inwards, if you go through that trouble consider getting a slightly larger shed and then you might as well go for thicker walls for more insulation.
5
Rough In Your Electrical, Water and HVAC
Next put in your electrical lines, water lines, internet connections, any HVAC needs etc. I’d also consider putting outlets and lights on the outside of the shed too.If there is one thing I’ve learned about outlets is that it’s hard to over do outlets. Because it’s a small space, you want outlets right where you need them. Consider everything you’ll be plugging in and put outlets there. Additionally, if there is any runs of wall more than 5 feet with no outlets, just put one there. Outlets are $1.50 for a box and another $2 for the receptacle itself, these are super cheap so don’t skimp here.
TIP: I’d also suggest taking a video and photos of the walls so you can remember where things are in the future if you need to fix something.
6
Seal Up Every Little Crack
If there is one thing I’ve learned about these sheds is they aren’t very air tight and because of that, bugs can get in too. The space where the roof meets the top of the wall and around the soffit/facia is usually so poorly done you can see day light!I’d start with sealing everything with a good silicone caulk. Follow all the junctions, seams, and transition points. First seal from the outside, then seal again from the inside. I’d also caulk where the walls meet the floor, the corners and inside the framing where the studs meet the sheathing. This will seem excessive to many, but a shed is so small that it will take a few hours to totally seal it up tight.Once you have that done, I’d move to spray can foam and fill in any hard to reach gaps. I’d also fill places you’re not going to be able to insulate easily and I’d go over any seams to safe guard from any leaks. Again, this is considered overboard by many, but a few hours and $50 of prevention will pay dividends, keep air and water out and the bugs at bay.
Note: You should make provision for fresh air exchange and humidity control. When you seal up the space and live in such a small space you need to take air quality seriously. I’d suggest having a mini split system that does heating and cooling (where it dehumidifies too) AND an Energy Recovery Ventilation unit (ERV). The ERV will take your indoor air, heat or cool the incoming air through an exchange, then adjust humidity levels too. The ERV will cycle your air so the indoor air is always fresh and the correct humidity.
7
Insulate Your Shed Walls And Ceiling
You have two main options for insulation spray foam or bat insulation. Bat insulation is a good option, easy to install and not that expensive. You an get bats that are sized right for your wall cavities to minimize the amount of cutting you need to do.The other option, and the one that I’d recommend, is closed cell spray foam. I specifically suggest closed cell spray foam because it is also a great vapor and air barrier. Spray foam is also a very high R value so you’ll keep your house hot or cold longer with the same amount of wall thickness.Many people will suggest open foam because it’s cheaper or some make the argument it’s easier to find the leak if a leak occurs. Because the shed is a small space, it will be more expensive, but since it’s small, you might only be talking a few extra hundred-dollar difference. The notion that you can spot leaks easier is something I flat out reject, you just bought a brand new shed and spend a few hours sealing everything, it’s not going leak any time soon and if it does, the closed cell foam adheres to the back of the roof decking, minimalizing the spread of any leaks. Open cell will allow the water to flow through it and into your wall cavity leading to mold.
8
Insulate Your Shed Floors
You want to insulate your shed floor or else you’ll have a condensing surface and your feet will be cold on the floors. You can do this by insulating under the floor on the bottom of the shed or laying foamboard on the floor and putting a new layer of plywood on top.If it was me, I’d do both. I’d order a shed that had a taller wall and then spray closed cell foam on the underside, then lay down 2 inches of polyiso foam with a compatible adhesive, then lay down a thick plywood subfloor on top of it, again with adhesive.The two downsides to laying in the foam on the sides is that you’re building into the space, reducing your overhead height (hence why getting a taller wall option on your shed is a good idea) and also your front transition of your front door will be a little weird, so you’ll need to work that out. Both are solvable problems and warm floors are a must have in my book.
Tip: If you do build up into the space by laying down foam, consider doing an in floor radiant heat!
9
Drywall, Floors And Trim
Next I’d suggest finishing with dry wall because it’s cheap. You want to make sure you are sealing all the joints and transitions of the dry wall for air tightness. This is because if you make this air tight, no water vapor can enter the wall cavity and hit a cold surface to condense, build up moisture and cause mold. This article on the proper way to air seal drywall is a great resource for this.[https://www.buildingscience.com/documents/information-sheets/air-barriers-airtight-drywall-approach]Once you’ve put up your drywall, spackled and sanded your joints, go ahead and trim out your doors and windows, then paint the whole thing. Install your floors at this point, then add your baseboards to hide the rough edges of the floors.
10
Final Finishing
At this point I’d drop in my cabinets, counters and other finishes. Consider using off the shelf premade things that are pretty affordable and make it easy. Your local big box store or Ikea will have good options for this. Bring in your appliances, add your lighting fixtures to the roughed in boxes etc. There you have it, you’ve converted a shed to a tiny house!

At this point I’d drop in my cabinets, counters and other finishes. Consider using off the shelf premade things that are pretty affordable and make it easy. Your local big box store or Ikea will have good options for this. Bring in your appliances, add your lighting fixtures to the roughed in boxes etc. There you have it, you’ve converted a shed to a tiny house!

 

How Much Does It Cost To Convert A Shed Into A Tiny House?

cost to convert shed into house

Converting a shed will cost around $75 per square foot including the cost of the shed. Depending on the shed size, utility connections and fixtures/appliances. This assumes you’re buying a pre-built shed. It could be done more cheaply if you build the shed yourself (shed companies typically mark up 60% above material cost).

Example costs:

  • Shed: $3,500 to $10,000
  • Windows: $500-$6,000
  • Insulation: $500 to $2000
  • Interior finishes: $500-$4,000
  • Electrical: $750 to $3,000
  • Water heater: $500 to $1000
  • HVAC: $500 to $1,500
  • Toilet: $20-$800
  • Fixtures: $1,000-$5,000
  • Appliances: $400 to $4,000
  • Interior wall: $500 to $1000
  • Flooring: $300 to $1,000
  • Fasteners/Adhesives: $1,500
  • Paint: $50 to $200

Living In A Shed While Build Your House

living in a shed while building your house

Many people want to live in a shed while they are building the permeant house. I myself have considered this for building my home on the property I bought in the mountains. This again falls to the legality issue. Dwelling in a shed is often not allowed because how small it is.

Additionally, I’ve found that if you do this, the code enforcement staff will require everything you normally are required to having in a full house, jumping up the cost dramatically.

Ultimately, the real answer is yes and no. Legally no you can’t. Is it possible, totally!

How do I turn my shed into living space?

This is something I have a lot of experience with, tiny houses are working on the same scale as a converted shed. There are a few critical things you want to consider when converting a shed into a living space.

Top Ways To Turn A Shed Into A living Space

  1. Run power to the shed for lights, electronics & HVAC
  2. Choose a way to climate control – Heating & Cooling
  3. Seal cracks to control moisture and bugs
  4. Insulate and Drywall for a clean look
  5. Install a durable flooring option
  6. Use a light color pallet, good lighting and natural light

Shed Design Ideas And Tips

tips for desinging your shed home

There are a so many ways to take your living space in a shed to the next level. Many of them can be borrowed from tiny houses for design inspirations. Here are a few guides I’ve created to help you design the perfect shed to live in!

Small Bathrooms For A Shed

A bathroom is one of those spaces in a shed you have to get right, there is a lot going on between power, water, fixtures and storage. Check out my post on how to design a small space bathroom.

designing a bathroom for a shed

Kitchen Designs For A Shed

The kitchen is another critical area if you want to live in a shed. You don’t have a lot of room to pack a lot into a small space. When I designed my tiny house kitchen there was a lot that went into it. Learn more about small kitchen concepts and how to design them.

kitchens in a shed

Appliances For Small Sheds

One challenge I’ve found is getting appliances for small spaces. You can’t always go to the big box hardware stores and find an appliance that will fit in your shed’s kitchen. Choosing the right appliance for small kitchens is important, here’s how to choose the right one for you!

small space appliances

Consider Adding A Sleeping Loft In Your Shed House

A sleeping loft can add a lot of room in the ground floor if you’re tight on space. Sleeping lofts are pretty straight forward, but I figure out a few tricks to make them really well.

save space in a shed with a loft for your bed

Add Solar Panels To Your Shed

Solar is a great option if you can’t get power run to your shed. I’ve written several post about how to setup solar, so here are some great I wrote about how I did it on mine.

Setting Up Solar Guides

Converted Shed To Living Space Photos And Ideas

bedroom in a shed

shed living area

gambral roof shed converted to living space

living space in shed house

bedroom in converted shed home

kitchen and bedroom in a converted shed house for living

modern cozy shed home

cottage style shed converted into a living space

 

guest room in a shed

living space with sitting area in a shed

tiny bedroom in a shed

guest room and office space in a shed

guest room in converted shed

rustic shed conversion to live in

 


a Tiny House made from a shed

Living In A Shed In Your Backyard – Is It Right For You?

Converting a shed into a house or living space is something that a lot of people have done and it’s totally possible. They are a great way to have a house quickly and pretty affordably. So I wanted to ask you all what do you think of this idea? Do you think living in a shed is right for you? Is anyone here doing this?

Shipping Container Homes: Hard-Learned Lessons from Those Who’ve Done It

Shipping Container Homes: Hard-Learned Lessons from Those Who’ve Done It

shipping container homesI get asked a lot about shipping container homes when people learn that I’m into tiny houses, and I do have some experience working with shipping container homes. My good friend, D.I. built his own container home here in Charlotte, using a 40-foot container. It was the first one I’d ever seen built out in person and it was neat to watch as D.I. built it over two years, learning along the way.

Living in a shipping container may sound a bit … unconventional. You may envision an old, rusty boxcar or simply a big metal box.

shipping container home living room

Surprisingly, shipping container homes are quite beautiful and economically friendly. Many are drawn to their affordable nature and modern lines. They do require a fair amount of work and preparation (and there are a few quirks to be aware of), but with effort, you can create a beautiful home from something ordinarily discarded and save thousands doing it.

 

What Is A Shipping Container Home?

what is a shipping container home

If you aren’t familiar with shipping container homes, they’re quite interesting. Charlotte happens to be home to one of the largest fabricators of shipping container homes, and I was invited to take a tour of their facility. It was really eye-opening to see how much work went into prepping the containers, so they were ready to build with. The common perception is, “it’s easy because the box is already there.” I learned both from watch D.I. and from my plant tour that’s far from the truth. There’s a lot of effort that goes into turning a container into a home.

Shipping containers are big metal boxes (like a boxcar or the box atop the trailer of a semi-truck), sometimes referred to as Conex boxes. These containers are typically built overseas (usually in China) and are used to ship goods all around the world. Shipping containers are widely available, and many are used only one time on a one-way trip from China (since the U.S. receives more goods than it sends back).

stacked shipping containers

These metal (aluminum or steel) Conex boxes are used to ship all types of materials—some hazardous, but mostly benign. Once they’re used and retired or put out of commission, they’re often stored near ports around the United States. Shipping containers are inexpensive to procure and readily available.

Shipping containers have been used to transport goods since the mid-1950s, but it wasn’t until 1987 that the first shipping container was patented for use as a converted home (although people used them as homes and buildings years earlier). Because the modular containers are easy to combine, there are large buildings built from multiple containers, including a mansion made of 31 containers and a hostel large enough to house 120 people!

Most people who live in shipping container homes, however, opt for the tiny house version, using one or two shipping containers as their home. Thanks to the availability, sturdiness, and modern look of Conex boxes, they are customizable.

Why Build A Shipping Container Home?

why build a shipping container home

Admittedly, I’m drawn to the idea of shipping container homes. My one hesitation is that I have no experience with metalworking. I’ve never used a plasma torch or welder before. It’s definitely one of those things I want to learn on my bucket list, but from seeing people actually do it—before you build a shipping container home, you need metalwork experience.

Due to the metalwork, shipping container homes are a little more advanced in terms of building and modifying. They aren’t always the right fit for the typical hobbyist or DIYer who doesn’t have prior building skills because there is quite a bit of technical work required (the obvious metalwork, plus other skills like concrete, engineering, etc.). The big appeal of shipping container homes really comes from the modular design and the modern look.

container home kitchen

That said, there are many other reasons why a shipping container home is an appealing option. The biggest draw of building or buying a shipping container home is that it’s often quite inexpensive. You can find single-use shipping containers for under $5,000 and you instantly have a shell to work in.

Shipping container homes are very strong and sustainable. They’re built to last with a tough exterior that holds up to hurricanes and earthquakes. It’s also nice to give life to the used containers that would ordinarily go to waste. Many shipping containers are used once and then sit empty in ports (or get melted down).

Shipping container homes are also fairly easy to transport intact. Yes, they’re extremely heavy, so they aren’t exactly a tiny house on wheels, but moving a shipping container home to a new foundation is doable without disrupting the structure of the home itself. The containers can be stacked to expand into multi-story homes or configured in interesting modular designs.

The Pros and Cons of Shipping Container Homes

pros and cons of shipping container homes

There are a few drawbacks to living in a shipping container home. One of the biggest challenges is that metal is conducive to heat and cold. Shipping container homes require insulation and ventilation for comfortable living.

Unlike wood, concrete, brick, and stone, metal is a little trickier for temperature and condensation control. They are also loud in windy climates. Thermal bridging is a huge issue in a shipping container home; the metal skin acts as a heat sink, drawing the heat out in the winter and bringing the heat in during summer. This all adds up to a less efficient building and can lead to moisture and mold issues if not properly managed.

welding shipping container homes

Shipping containers also require welding abilities to modify. Unlike wood and other home construction materials, you can’t simply create a window or cut a vent in your home without planning carefully. Welding takes time and is costly, so you’ll want to be cautious as you plan. It’s also a bit more difficult in remote locations because they don’t make battery-powered welding units.

Obviously, planning windows, vents, and other modifications means you need to be aware of load-bearing and structural elements before you make a change to the container. Openings cut in the skin often lead to you needing to reinforce the structure because each cut you make weakens the whole structure.

Shipping containers also require a concrete foundation or, at minimum, piers. You can’t simply put your container house on the ground unsupported and I’ve seen many novice builders attempt to skimp on their footings.

Laying a foundation takes time and adds to the expense associated with the project; it also means you need to be certain exactly how you want to plan the layout of your property. A shipping container home should be viewed as a more permanent construction (although they can be moved intact to a new foundation). It is a cost that you should make sure to budget in for expenses.

shipping containers in a row

Work with a contractor or someone with previous shipping container home-building experience, especially if you’re new to the world of tiny home building. Shipping container homes tend to be one of the more advanced tiny home options. Although they’re ultimately a simple structure, there are certain quirks and issues to be aware of.

Of course, you can find pre-made shipping container structures, but they’re often quite expensive. Creating a shipping container home by yourself is less expensive, but you’ll still need to enlist the help of experts. Even to procure the shipping container and move it to your foundation is a big undertaking. You’ll need a crane to deliver the container and set it atop your foundation. Shipping containers are extremely heavy. Depending on the length (20 foot or 40 foot) they weigh between 5,000-8,000+ pounds. You aren’t going to move a shipping container yourself.

When I worked with my friend, D.I. on his 40-foot container home build, the need for welding skills was a big issue. He didn’t know how to weld or use a plasma torch at all when he started to build his container home, so modifications were a challenge for him. It was important to plan ahead so he could have a contractor do all the welding at once (rather than paying him to return over and over again).

The other challenge D.I. faced was his container home was so immobile. You really need a crane to even move it a short distance or adjust it slightly on the foundation. This means when you get the container installed, you need to be certain of the exact placement you want.

container home bedroom

Finally, another big barrier is that local building code enforcement officials are often unfamiliar with shipping container homes. As a result, it can be tough to get the proper permits for them.

Although there are building challenges, the final look of a shipping container home is really appealing. They have a modern, architectural quality which I find really appealing if done well. They’re inexpensive, extremely durable, and are easily customized.

Here are a few reviews and honest takes on the pros and cons of living in a shipping container home:

 

How Much Does A Shipping Container Home Cost?

how much does a shipping container home cost

Shipping containers themselves, depending on size, cost anywhere from $3,000-$5,000+. It’s much less expensive to buy a shipping container that’s been used for a single ship than to buy a brand-new container. As long as you do your research and ensure the container didn’t contain any dangerous materials, the use is almost always undetectable. You can work with scratches or dents to cover them (or remove) as part of the design, even a little rust can be ground out and repainted.

The biggest mistake I see people make is not factoring in expenses of building a shipping container home to include transportation and placement of the container itself. The second biggest mistake is the foundation build, too often people skip or skimp on this step.

Even if you take the DIY route, chances are you will need to enlist expert help on factors like solar, electric (remember, metal is conductive), plumbing, and modification, especially if you don’t have much welding experience.

shipping container home room ideas

As I said before, because aluminum and steel are conductive, they must be insulated and ventilated carefully to prevent the buildup of condensation and to simply make living more comfortable. So, expert insulation, heating, and cooling will need to be configured into your cost as well.

That last area where I see people get tripped up is that you will also need to consider fees for permits, architectural designs, and plans. As far as permitting goes, as I said, there are many cities without much familiarity with zoning for shipping containers used as dwelling structures, so you’ll need to work with your local officials on the proper approval. This often will include hiring an engineer to work out plans to make officials feel comfortable signing off on it.

The question of cost really comes down to how much planning you will need to do, what you can DIY, and what you’ll need to outsource. Once you’ve procured the container itself, the other pieces can either add up or be done on the cheap.

Here are several outlines of storage container build-outs with pricing:

As you see, the costs vary greatly depending on your plans and the level of architectural design you want to put into your shipping container home. If you’re most concerned with functionality, then a single shipping container buildout is an inexpensive tiny home option.

how to find and buy a shipping container home

How to Find and Buy A Shipping Container

If you’re ready to find and buy a shipping container home, you need to start researching the size you want. Shipping containers typically come in two standard sizes: 20 foot and 40 foot. The best containers for homes are listed as “HC” or High-Cube containers. HC containers are 9 feet “tall” (as opposed to the standard 8-foot container). That said, shipping containers come in many other sizes as well; you can find them ranging from 8-53 feet. The next most common size is 45 feet, but again, 20- or 40-foot containers are standard (and the easiest to find).

When choosing a size, don’t forget that you’ll be building inwards. You’ll need to frame out the inside and insulate it as well. Depending on your choices for these, you could be eating into your interior by 6-8 inches off each wall.

Shipping containers are graded by condition. “A grade” means the container is good quality with a clean interior and watertight with in-tact seals. The container grades go down to “C grade,” which usually means rust is present, and the container is 10-14 years old. The prices vary by grade but for living, chances are you’ll want to pay a little more for a higher quality container.

container home rooms

Shipping containers are also graded by the following: “One-trippers” meaning new containers that contained only one shipment. “Certified Cargo Worthy” meaning they’ve been used for multiple shipments but are in good condition. “Wind and Watertight” (WWT) indicating they’ve been used but are still in decent condition. “As-Is” means the container may have rust, doors that don’t seal or pinholes in the metal. Containers graded “As-Is” should probably be avoided for dwellings.

The other factors to consider are the land where you plan to place your container (and if you already have a foundation or will need to pour one). You’ll need to ensure the land is accessible for large trucks or cranes so your shipping container home can be placed.

To buy shipping containers check out:

  • Shipped is the biggest new and used shipping container marketplace online
  • BoxHub is another big new and used shipping container marketplace
  • Craigslist and eBay are also options for finding shipping container homes

Before you buy, you’ll want to review these resources and guides for buying a shipping container home as well:

 

Building Your Own Shipping Container Home

If you decide you don’t want to take the DIY route to building, there are certainly options for fully designed and built-out shipping container homes. These are, of course, going to be more expensive, but because the modular design is favored by architects, you can find really beautiful “pet projects” for sale. The design and build quality of these homes are often excellent.

Resources for pre-built container homes are:

Like most of us in the tiny home world, though, chances are you enjoy putting in the sweat equity. (I know I do!) Shipping container homes are a more advanced project and they require certain skills, like metalworking. Building the internal walls, insulation, plumbing, and electrical can all be completed yourself, but there are considerations so follow expert resources and instructions. It takes quite a few manhours to complete a DIY container home build.

building container home

Great examples of people who successfully DIY-built their container homes are:

Before you start your build, you’ll need floor plans and a strong idea of how you want your finished container home to look. As with any tiny home build, the planning portion of the process is vital.

For great shipping container home floorplans, you may want to view:

The fact that shipping container homes are pretty straightforward (one 20- or 40-foot-long container by 9 feet high and across), means configuring floor plans isn’t terribly challenging. Considerations like plumbing, window placement, and access to grid services are really all you need to keep in mind in terms of layout. If there are any dents or areas of your Conex box you need to cover, figure that into the design as well.

designing container homes

As you design your home, consider the needs of each person who lives in the home. Some shipping container homes are built in sections. One container may serve as the main living area, another container may become a guest area, and another container serves as the office. It depends on the functionality, amount of space you desire and how many containers you can afford or access. The good news about shipping containers is you can always add more, expand, and build out in the future.

After seeing the amazing floorplans and designs of shipping container homes out there, I’m sure you’ll feel inspired too. If you’re looking for a strong structure with a modern look and feel, a shipping container home might be the right type of tiny home for you.

Your Turn!

  • Do you prefer the modern design of shipping container homes?
  • What skills would you need to learn for your shipping container home build?